Vox: Peter Farrar
Who will read this? I used to always think that as I started a new short story. As I rewrote that introduction over and over I at times tried to picture the reader. Maybe someone with a scalding cup of instant coffee before the household wakes, a traveller on the 7.38am to Flinders Street, a person in bed tilting the story into the beam of a reading light so not to disturb whoever is next to them or a worker hurrying out for a cigarette and a few pages while on a break. When I think of the next generation of readers the pictures are less distinct. I can’t see them.
When I first started writing it was for my children. They would have a legacy of their old man. Something besides a row of pruned roses and a beer stein with my name engraved on it. Here’s what caught my attention, the work would say to them. Now you can fill in the gaps between what we never made time to talk about or dream of. Eventually too I looked at their friends. Would they take a book off the shelf, open it at a random page before being drawn in? Now and then I hear them talking. The ideas in “Animal Farm” make no sense. “Year of Wonders” is boring. Why do we have to do Shakespeare?
You often hear how we have lost things along the way. Families don’t talk anymore. We rarely slow cook meals. Fewer people walk. We never seem to stop. Is reading the next casualty? Not the rushed reading of a quick couple of pages before falling asleep but the deep reading where you find nuances, themes, meanings and new ways of seeing the world. As my daughter’s generation pack away their study notes for the last time and prepare for post school life, what will reading be? Something between ad breaks and Facebook updates? A quick scan of the sports section? Reading is a baton I still want to pass to them. Along with a love of travel, films, recipes, art and all the things most parents would list. For this emerging generation reading is destined to struggle against the celebrity age, social media and dump down television. But I hope.